BIG EAST Announces 2008 Women's Soccer Preseason Awards and Coaches' Poll
PROVIDENCE, R.I. Notre Dame and West Virginia have been tabbed as favorites in the 2008 BIG EAST preseason women’s soccer poll. The Irish received 15 first-place votes and were unanimously picked to win the National Division, while the Mountaineers were picked to win the American Division. Both programs have won their respective division titles the last three years. The votes were cast by the league’s 16 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Notre Dame totaled the maximum 120 points, with all eight first-place votes from its American Division counterparts and all seven first-place votes from its National Division comrades. Last year the Irish went 19-5-2 (11-0-0 BIG EAST) and advanced to the national semifinals of the NCAA Championship. It was their 15th consecutive NCAA appearance. The Irish have been picked to win the league in each of the last 14 years, dating back to 1995 when they joined the BIG EAST.
Helping guide the way for the Irish will be seniors Brittany Bock and Kerri Hanks. Bock was picked as the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 16 goals last season. Hanks led the league with 49 points and 21 assists. Hanks had earned Preseason Player of the Year honors for the past two seasons and won the 2006 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Award given to the nation’s top collegiate soccer player. Both players were unanimous picks for the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
West Virginia was singled out to win the American Division garnering nine first-place votes. Totaling 114 points overall, the Mountaineers narrowly edged out Connecticut, which had 111 points. WVU is coming off its first BIG EAST Championship and its eighth straight NCAA Championship appearance. Last year, West Virginia (18-5-2, 9-1-1 BIG EAST) advanced to the Elite Eight (quarterfinals) of the NCAA Championship and were ranked No. 7 in the final NSCAA/adidas Poll, its highest finish ever. The Mountaineers boast four all-conference preseason selections, more than any other team in the league. Seniors Amanda Cicchini, Greer Barnes and Deana Everrett, along with junior Carolyn Blank were all named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
Senior goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe of Connecticut was picked as the Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year. As one of three BIG EAST teams to advance to the Elite Eight (quarterfinals) of the 2007 NCAA Championship, the Huskies (14-6-2, 8-2-1 BIG EAST) finished the year ranked No. 9 in the NSCAA/adidas Poll following three positive results away from home. Returning senior Liz Eng saw action in all 22 matches last season and was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. UConn, which earned seven first-place votes in the preseason polls, has been to every NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship since the tournament’s inception in 1982.
Louisville totaled 96 points, including a first-place selection and was picked to finish second in the National Division. The Cardinals (13-6-2, 7-3-1 BIG EAST) also saw senior Shannon Smyth earn All-BIG EAST Preseason Team. UofL is coming off its second straight NCAA Championship appearance and posted a 7-3-1 mark in league play last year, its best in three years of BIG EAST action.
Last year’s Cinderella story Georgetown will be out to repeat its success in 2008. A year ago the Hoyas advanced to the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship and made their first appearance in the NCAA Championship. Under the direction of the league’s reigning Coach of the Year, Dave Nolan, the Hoyas (14-8-0, 6-5-0 BIG EAST) were picked to finish third with 87 points in the National Division. Senior Sara Jordan returns to lead the offense having tallied 19 points, including seven goals last year. She also was picked to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
Rutgers was right behind the Hoyas in the preseason poll with 86 points and was picked fourth in the National Division. The Scarlet Knights (9-9-3, 4-5-2 BIG EAST) will look for the leadership of junior All-BIG EAST Preseason pick Gina DeMaio to help lead them back to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2006. DeMaio totaled a team-leading 12 points, including five goals last season and is usually among the league leaders in shots having taken 70 last year.
All-BIG EAST Preseason selection and senior Katie Kelly looks to lead Marquette back to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2006 as well. Kelly started all 20 games for the Golden Eagles last year and ranked third in the league with nine assists. Marquette (12-4-4, 5-3-3 BIG EAST) totaled 90 points and was picked third in the American Division.
Villanova was picked fifth in the National Division and will be led by junior defender Kelly Eagan. Selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Eagan has started all 43 games for the Wildcats at her central back position. Villanova (11-4-6, 4-3-4 BIG EAST) has posted 29 shutouts in those 43 games with a goals-against average of just 0.48. The defense has allowed just 5.0 shots on goal per game over the past two seasons. Eagan also has scored four career goals, all gamewinners, including three that were the only scores of the game in 1-0 Wildcat victories.
While the season kicks off Aug. 22, BIG EAST play begins on Sept. 18 with one match, followed by an additional seven on Sept. 19. The BIG EAST is the nation’s largest Division I women's soccer conference. Its 16 members compete in a round-robin rotational 11-game schedule within two divisions of eight utilizing travel partners for crossover play. Each team plays seven opponents within its division and four opponents from the other division.
The conference also welcomes three head coaches to the league as Michelle Salmon takes over the Cincinnati program and Phil Wheddon handles the reins at Syracuse. John Byford at Villanova also will be making his BIG EAST coaching debut.
The 2008 BIG EAST Women's Soccer Championship is a 10-team single-elimination tournament. The top five teams in each division, seeded by Conference point total, qualify for the conference championship. The top three teams in each division earn first round byes to the quarterfinals. The first round and quarterfinal games are conducted on the campuses of the higher seeded teams.
First-round games will be held on Oct. 30, with the quarterfinals following on Nov. 2. Notre Dame’s Alumni Stadium will serve as host for the semifinals (Nov. 7), as well as the championship game (Nov. 9). The final three matches of the championship will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network. The semifinals will begin at 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, while the title game will start at noon ET. The championship game also will be carried live on BIG EAST TV, as well as multiple regional sports networks, which will be announced at a later date. The tournament champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.
2008 BIG EAST Women’s Soccer Preseason Awards & Coaches’ Poll
BIG EAST Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Kelly Eagan, Villanova, Jr., D
BIG EAST Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Stephanie Labbe, Connecticut, Sr.
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team
BIG EAST Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
(-) - Indicates first place votes